Safer Firefighting?

For this week’s featured engineering project, I talked to Tyler Stout, a Dartmouth engineering ’15.

Tyler and his group, Colin Heffernan and Erica Normandin (both ’15s), all took ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering this past winter.

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Tyler Stout

ENGS 21 is not like a regular Dartmouth class. Instead of the usual lecture structure, students come in, form groups, are assigned a topic, and they are tasked with creating a product under that umbrella topic that will somehow improve the general quality of life. The students are in charge of coming up with, designing, and producing this device. The great thing about this class is that it’s not limited by field: students are forced to learn about the sciences, all the engineering disciplines, design, and other subjects to create a feasible final product. The students are graded on their presentations, briefs, and final product.

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Colin Heffernan works on the group’s device in Couch Lab

For this class, Tyler’s group decided to build a Firefighter Pre-Flashover Condition Alerting Device. A flashover happens when organic materials get hot enough that they release flammable gases due to thermal decomposition, and the majority of exposed material ignites. The risk of flashovers, of course, puts firefighters’ lives at risk. The device works by measuring temperature, and alerting the firefighter equipped with it via an LED gauge.

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The electrical components and LED gauge of the device ready to be inserted into the plastic casing

Tyler says that the idea to make this device actually came from reaching out into the community, personally talking to firefighters, and listening to what they need. Tyler also says that this project forced him to learn skills like working on a team, delegating responsibilities, and observing deadlines that aren’t practiced in more traditional Dartmouth classes.

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Tyler Stout puts the finishing touches on the plastic casing of their device

When asked if he enjoyed the class, Tyler is quick to say that he loved it. The more practical, real-world applications of this class made it more enjoyable than others he’s taken.

“One of the great things about this class,” he says, “is that I had to teach myself mechanical, electrical, and software engineering.” Few other classes would have forced him to learn as much. Group member Colin Heffernan adds that while this class required an incredible amount of hours, the time spent in the Machine Shop and Couch Lab building things made the experience extremely rewarding and enjoyable.

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